Making college more affordable

BY KATHY WRIGHT, Guest Columnist

With college tuition rates continuing to rise, paying for college can seem like a daunting task. Many people interested in sending their children to school, or going back themselves, aren’t sure how to afford it.

The key is that it’s never too early to start planning and saving money. Here are a few things to consider for making college more affordable:

Don’t wait to start saving. The biggest mistake people make when saving money for college is waiting too long to start. If you’re a parent, don’t wait until your child is in high school to start putting money away for college.

Starting a savings fund when your child is born is a good way to plan ahead. Meet with a financial advisor or look online for tools to help guide you through the planning and saving process.

Research scholarship and grant opportunities. There are many programs and scholarships available for students and parents to consider. Be sure to research the opportunities available before it’s too late to apply. Too often we see prospective students miss out because they weren’t aware of the possibilities.

As one example, the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program, funded by the state lottery, offers scholarships to Florida residents based on academic achievement in high school.

Also, many organizations and colleges offer a variety of scholarships. Check with your child’s high school about any possible opportunities. School guidance counselors can often be a great resource for scholarships available.

Look into prepaid tuition plans. As tuition rates continue to climb, prepaid tuition plans can be a smart option. The Florida Prepaid College Program, created by the Florida Legislature, offers savings plans that lock in current tuition prices. You can enroll your child in the program from when they’re born up until they’re in the 11th grade.

Various options are available with different costs, payment schedules and benefits. While these funds are to be used for a state school, they can also be applied to a number of other schools. There is no market risk associated with this program, as the money is guaranteed by the State of Florida.

Meet with a financial advisor. One of the best things you can do when saving for college is to meet with a financial advisor. With their knowledge and expertise, advisors can assist you in creating a plan to save money in the most advantageous way, making you aware of the options available.

The advisor should create a plan that’s specific to you and your income level. And depending on your situation, you may want to look into such savings vehicles as savings accounts, certificates of deposits or savings bonds.

Kathy Wright of USAmeriBank

Kathy Wright of USAmeriBank

Kathy Wright is a Senior Vice President and retail branch manager for the USAmeriBank 4th Street N office in St. Petersburg. Wright has over 30 years of banking experience in retail and wealth management serving the St. Petersburg area. She was born and raised in St. Petersburg. She is a member of Krewe of Princess Ulele, is a member of the Northeast Exchange Club and chaired Relay for Life in St. Petersburg in 2013 and 2014.

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